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As I took my faded “lucky” turkey hunting ball cap out of the dryer for the umpteenth time over the last 10 years I noticed faded dates, some completely gone with just a small smudge of an ink stain of what once was. I have to ask myself, “Has it really been ten years?”
The inscriptions on the inside of a ball cap don’t really hold the memories of the hunts, but the dates help me replay each hunt in my mind…remembering every one as if it had occurred only yesterday. March of 2007, I embarked on my first ever turkey hunt harvesting my first turkey. I was immediately hooked. The whole process from roosting the bird the night before, getting up before the crack of dawn, sitting against a young pine as the earth cracked with its haunting chill and the sun took over the sky. I was immediately mesmerized with the whole shenanigans of the Tom’s rituals to be King of his domain, his small piece of woods. How the bird put on a show for the hens when the hens seemed to act as if the Tom didn’t even exist. The whole experience was sealed with the smell of spent shotgun powder and the damp smell of turkey feathers in the morning dew. Yes, I was hooked. An immediate addict!
As I look at the dates that are left visible in my old ball cap, I relive each of the hunts…not only the hunt, but the whole entire experience. The places we stayed, the people we met, and even the hardships we faced. I have been fortunate to harvest several birds every year that I have hunted, except for one season. However, the season did not end without its special memories in itself.
I have harvested some really nice birds and even a multi-bearded bird but I have never been able to get the right trophy beard and spur combination on a single bird to warrant a full mount. My other turkey related goal is to complete my world slam which I am planning that quest for Spring 2018. I have several grand slams and I am working this season toward a single season slam, warranting this next trip to Florida; our third trip this season.
With future goals in mind, none of that tarnishes what I have experienced and the memories that I have made over the last ten years as a turkey hunter. As I remember each hunt so vividly, I am grateful for the graciousness of the “Turkey Gods” and all the mentors, landowners, and guides that I have crossed paths with. I truly feel honored to have shared some time with them in the woods and to have experienced the hunting and calling techniques of each one of them.
I pray that as long as I have the health and the means that I will be able to turkey hunt across the nation absorbing the breathtaking rituals and shenanigans of turkey behavior, the intoxicating smells of a spent shotgun shell, and the opportunity to “dance with a fist full of feathers.”
April 17, 2017: Our second trip to Florida left me empty handed, but not because I did not have the opportunity. I had a mature tom come into our set up on Sunday morning, I took the shot only to discover I had some faulty shotgun shells. When I unloaded my gun, I turned my shotgun sideways only to empty loose shot, broken up resin filler, and a few pieces of the top crimp. Not only was the spent round faulty, I had two in the magazine that were busted up pretty bad. I took a pretty good blow from the recoil of my shotgun and the results of the shot were oddly wrong.
I have since bought a new box of shells and it did not deter me getting back out in the woods after an Alabama Tom.
I had a goal, one that seemed to have clipped my legs out from under me and left me with the air knocked out of me right from the start. I have to admit, I was having a hard time with it….was there any way of saving it? A way to get back on my feet, feel the grit in my teeth? A way to persevere?
It’s not a pride thing–it is a passion…a sickness almost, but it is mine–I really enjoy turkey hunting. It’s my thing! I would give up all other game hunting if I could have six months out of the year hunting turkey. Honestly, I would spend the other six preparing for turkey hunting.
After much thought and a little research, I threw it out there; yep, another trip. Well, the results–trip number three to Florida is on the calendar for this coming weekend. A fast and furious trip praying for good odds if the Turkey Gods are willing.
Our hunting clothes are in the wash, the truck is still partially packed from our last trip and from this weekend hunting here at home in Alabama. FIVE STATES in THREE WEEKS, that is what is on the calendar and somewhere in between we will be working our 8-5 job in the concrete jungle for nine of those days with a one hour one way commute. The TO-DO/DUE-LIST has already been started for mid-week and I am looking forward to the adventure and actually all the hard work.
Yep! They say it is a passion, an obsession….I say, “It’s a SICKNESS, an insanity!” It gets under your skin like an alien bot, it wreaks your mind even when you sleep. Every far off sound mimics that of a gobble, even in the city on the busy sidewalks. It’s haunting….and warming, in the same moment….and you are elusive to being in your right mind! Yep, a sickness! An insanity!!
April 16, 2017: Last year, our goal was to be in Mexico this May working on completing my Royal and World turkey slam. A truck that broke down during our archery rut hunt in Missouri in November with a costly DEF system replacement and a roof that started leaking on our home when we returned from that trip had other plans for us. Our original plans left no need to seek a turkey lease in our home state other than a small parcel we hunt south of us. So that small parcel is all we had access to this season on our home turf.
The parcel is a small triangular shaped cow pasture with very little woods that sits adjacent to a HUGE pine plantation. Turkey do frequent that cow pasture so there was a chance of being in the right place at the right time…but chance is 50/50, so that was enough for us to get up every weekend we could and visit the cow pasture with hopes of being on the right side of that 50/50 equation.
This is our third year hunting this parcel and we have seen a few birds on it. However, just after last season, a portion of the adjacent pine plantation had been clear cut and the rest select cut, thinning out most of the adjacent property. On our first hunt of this season, we watched nine toms and twenty hens in the cut-over. Every weekend we had the opportunity to hunt this property, we watched some sort of combination of those birds…our only problem, those birds were over the fence on property we did not have permission to hunt. Yep, it was a lot like that famous Eddie Murphy skit, “I’ve got ice cream and you can’t have none!”
We put a Spartan GoCam wireless camera out early in the season and were taunted by turkey on “our side of the fence” on several occasions. We came close on one hunt but a hen won the Tom’s attention. This weekend was officially our last weekend to hunt turkey in Alabama because of our upcoming out of state turkey hunting trips. On Saturday, we were able to roost a bird on “our side of the fence.” That kind of made it easy to wake up at 3:30 am Sunday morning. We needed to get in there early while it was extremely dark and get set up with plenty of time to let the woods settle before fly-down.
Just like someone flipped a switch the Tom’s started gobbling. We were set up right where we needed to be. We had the roosted Tom on our side of the fence, one across the fence in the tree line 300 yards front of us, and another off to the right on an adjoining horse farm, all gobbling at daybreak. We never heard the roosted Tom fly down but finally he gobbled on the ground behind us.
The sun started to top the trees in front of us. The Tom was gobbling and getting closer. I had my shotgun up, my safety off, and I was turned to the right for my widest shot possibility. I waited as I heard the Tom spit twice as he went into full strut.
I could tell, even with my ESP hearing protection in my ears, that this Tom was close. I watched as a hen walked out in front of me. Then I saw movement to the right of me behind some brush just eight to ten yards away. I was tucked away in some brush and I was shaded somewhat from the sun so I knew I had the perfect advantage. I finally saw the top of the Tom’s head, red waddles, and part of a beard through the thick brush. The bird was at eight yards and all that was left was just TWO MORE STEPS by the bird to clear the brush, for me to move my gun six inches to the right, and make the shot. At least that is what my mind was saying.
The Tom never took the two steps in the direction I needed. The Tom stopped, stood a split second behind the brush looking straight in Mister’s direction, then it turned slowly and crept back the way it walked in…but not before letting out three warning putts!
When I knew the bird was out of view I turned to Mister to shrug my shoulders and immediately I saw what the tom balked at. The sun had rose to the height above the trees and was beaming brightly on Mister. A portion of his face, the frames and the lenses of his glasses were shining in the bright direct sunlight. That is why the bird didn’t spook badly, it just knew something didn’t look right. When I told Mister, he said, “I was afraid of that but there was no way to avoid it at that moment.” In the particular area we set up in it did not leave us much selection for a different arrangement. So, we ended the season without an Alabama turkey harvest but we came as close as one could without one. It was a good hunt and a great memory to end the season with.
The next two weeks are going to be jam-packed starting with a hunt in Florida where we will leave Friday night for the eight hour drive down to Lakeland, Florida in time to hit the woods before daylight to hunt an Osceola on Saturday morning with guide, Chris Graham. This will be our third weekend that we have been to Florida for an Osceola so I plan to hunt hard to make it happen. Then the following week we have a four day work week, a 20-hour drive for a DIY hunt in Kansas followed by a DIY hunt in Nebraska, then on to Missouri to hunt with Double Deuce Ranch. A lot of preparation, road weary days, headlight-lit highway nights, in-cab dining, tailgate meals, and a ton of great memories are in store.
Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog to follow along where I will be sharing our hunting adventures, what we are using in the field, how we plan our DIY hunts, places we visit, and everything in between…the good, the comical, the bad, and the hardships.
March 24-26, 2017: As this Florida Osceola turkey hunt slowly approached on my calendar, the excitement was building up knowing this would be the official kick-off to my quest to complete a turkey grand slam in one season. I was meeting several friends in Dunnellon, Florida and we would spend the next three days hunting Osceola Turkey in 80 degree weather in the sandy, buggy woods of Central Florida with guide, Dave Mehlenbacher. This would be my third time hunting turkey with Dave and up to this trip, our past groups had been 100% with him–we were hoping for a continued record. It would be hard to top our triple in 2011 where within the first hour of our first morning’s hunt, but we were willing to fathom the thought.
Our first morning we were out the door at 5:15 a.m. with strict instructions to be ready when we bail out of the truck because we would be parking within earshot of the resident turkey in the area. The walk in was on a dark two rut road because of the tall, eerie majestic plantation oaks that had limbs and branches that spanned over the entire trail. Several of us had to get in close and even hold on to the other to sneak through this section of woods to get to the backside of the property. Mister and two hunters, Raquel and Rebecca, stopped at a front field tucked away in the scrub oaks and heavy ground brush. Dave, myself and two others traveled on to the back portion of the property.
Once we reached our destination, I quickly set up with my back resting against an oak tree. Dave and the other hunter, Keith, were to my left and the decoys were also to my left in a sandy area about 18-20 yards. It was still really dark out and definitely too early for any gobbling. As I rested against the oak, my shins burning from the brisk walk in on sandy soil, I couldn’t help but feel the building excitement deep in my soul as to what the day would hold. We had two hunters, Keith and Rebecca, that were needing an Osceola to complete their turkey grand slam. One other hunter, Raquel, was working on shooting her first Osceola. I was working on my 5th Osceola and the first bird in my quest for a grand slam in one season. I have completed several turkey grand slams but never one in the same season….it was on my bucket list!
As the sky began to lighten up, the first gobble rang out. Then a second gobble a few minutes later. All of a sudden there was a strong gobble in the tree line in front of us followed by what sounded like a jake gobble, and it was like someone struck a nerve…chain gobbles came out of those trees for the next few minutes. At one point I wondered if they had time to catch their breath. It was music to my ears, making my hair stand up on the nap of my neck and my stomach felt as if fireflies were playing Quidditch in my gut and lungs.
I had already told Keith that if we had the opportunity at birds, he needed to take the first shot to finish his grand slam and if the opportunity was there for a double, I would follow-up. It was exciting to think that maybe a few of those toms gobbling on the roost would give us that opportunity. The birds eventually pitched down but in the other direction. We heard a single gobble a good distance off to the left of us. We waited as Dave made a few calls at varying times.
We were well into the first hour and a half of our first hunt when I heard a hen putt somewhere behind and to the left of me. I strained to hear movement…nothing. Within a few minutes I saw something very dark and round to the extreme left of me. A TOM!! And he was coming in HOT! The bird stopped for a moment, pecked at the ground, reassessed the decoy scene, went into strut, and marched right into our set up blown up like an overstuffed pinata. I knew at this point that the bird was directly in front of Keith, but he had yet to shoot. The bird walked over to the decoy, bumped into it and the next thing I knew he was on top of the decoy knocking it to the ground, and pecking at the decoy’s head.
I was thinking to myself, “shoot, shoot, shoot!” Then I thought, “Maybe Keith sees another bird coming into the set-up down the trail that I can’t see.” I heard my heart start pumping as I readied my shotgun. The live tom was doing all he could do to beat the decoy up and he paused for a moment when the shot rang out pelting his noggin with turkey shot and laying him out in the sand. Keith rushed out to retrieve the bird as Dave rushed out to upright the downed decoy. Well, the decoy needed a little work and wasn’t going to just easily get poked back into the sand. I dug my Buck Knife Bantam out of my turkey vest and handed it to Dave to work on the repairs. Dave was able to temporarily fix “Old Scar Face” and he ran out and stuck him up in the sand.
We sat on this spot another 45 mins to an hour but nothing else came into it. That was and exciting hunt and I was ecstatic for Keith in completing his Turkey Grand Slam. The other hunters had not seen a bird all morning.
After a quick trip into town for lunch at The Blue Gator, we returned to the woods in search of toms. We all used strategy to get us to where we heard birds gobbling in the morning thinking we may have a chance at them coming back to the roost. No such luck! With all the chain gobbling that took place that morning, we estimated at least six other tom’s in that area, but we didn’t hear a single gobble.
On Saturday and Sunday we didn’t hear a single gobble and we hunted all day both days with a short lunch break. Keith had a failed archery opportunity at another tom that came running into the Deception Outdoors Decoy setup. With turkey hunting, it isn’t over until the sun starts to set so we held out until the last minute and made our retreat back to the trucks.
I won’t lie, I was kind of bummed. Something that I set out to do was knocked down on the first turkey hunting trip. Was I giving in too easily? Was there still a chance? Would I have the time to come back this season and hunt again? All of this was running through my head on my walk back to the truck and on our drive home. After discussing it with Mister and bringing up the idea to Rebecca, much pondering and schedule changing, and the heart of gold of an awesome guide, WE ARE HEADED BACK TO FLORIDA! WoooHooo! The weekend of April 8 & 9th we will be back in those woods working hard toward achieving Rebecca’s first grand slam and for me, pulling off a grand slam off in one season. Wish us luck!!
I NEED SOME HELP…many that follow my blog or follow Life in Camo on Facebook know that I name the birds I usually chase locally in Alabama every season. El Jefe is the only one that I have not ended the chapter on so far and I am going into my third season chasing him. Circumstances have kept him safe…a metal one with barbs and some hardwoods with double painted stripes to be more specific–but I know one day he won’t be able to stand it and he will venture out of his safety zone. Our game cameras have proven that he has!
This year El Jefe is running with two other mature birds which I call the group the Three Amigos: El Jefe (the Boss), El Diablo (the Devil), and Papi Chulo (the MacDaddy). Over the past two weeks a lone tom that we have seen briefly in the past has shown up on game camera. I busted this bird pre-season the first year we scouted this property. Last season, he skirted us, unbeknownst to us he was roosted quietly in a tree within close proximity, flying down late, and using the terrace to sneak around us. He is a tight-lipped, sub-dominant tom so we can’t just come in and locate him and hunt him. I like a challenge and this bird is going to give me that.
I NEED HELP NAMING THIS BIRD!! I need to name this bird for my blog this season. I am offering a small prize for the winner of the name chosen. This prize package includes a really unique turkey call.
If you have a name, post it as a comment to this blog entry or in a response to my Facebook post. If I choose the name you posted, I will send you a prize package worth up to $100. I will give away this prize package on Sunday, March 26, 2017.
Follow along to see how this season unfolds. Good luck to all the turkey hunters this spring. “Hunt hard, harvest ethically and may your vest be full of feathers….Nancy Jo.”
Guest post by Rebecca Gicewicz
My Nebraska hunt with The Roost was a fantastic adventure with great friends. The hunting was physical, involving covering lots of ground and enjoying the unique scenery. The style of hunting was new to me as I am a fledgling turkey hunter. I did my best to keep up with our 6 foot 6-inch guide and his long, swift legs. My companions were good at coaching me a bit to keep me on track and improve my odds of harvesting.
On our second day of hunting our other two hunting companions were tagged out and it was up to Nancy Jo and I to close the deal. It was my turn to step into the batters box and we saw at least two toms in a field along the Middle Loup River. When we got into position the guide frantically whispered that TWO LONG BEARDS were coming in hot. Nancy Jo looked at me asked, “Do you want to try for a double.” I didn’t need time to contemplate that question, the answer was, “Let’s do this!”
In an instant, the gobblers were in view and Nancy Jo asked me if I was ready? I said, “YES!” Nancy Jo fired and I shot a second later. Her aim was true and mine not so much. I had a follow-up shot opportunity, but it was strike number two. There would not be a strike three as my gun jammed. Too much crawling through the dirt, I suspect.
So my hunting buddy harvested herself a beautiful Merriam’s turkey! I was happy for her but felt like I had let the guide, the cameraman, and my hunting partner down. I wanted that double! So with mixed emotions of celebration for my friend and frustration at myself I took a few minutes to regain my perspective and composure. Once all those emotions were sorted out I was ready to be up to bat again!
We went to a new spot and called in a few jakes who were ready to brawl. It was awesome to see their displays! Our next spot was a cut corn field that had four toms and two jakes. The stalk was on! Nancy Jo stayed at the truck while, guide Dustin aka Dirt, cameraman Richard aka Mister and hunter Rebecca aka Slugger went creepin’. We set up and the turkeys weren’t visible. Dirt called and finally a few gobbles cut loose and he whispered, “Here they come.” My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking but I was ready for the fast pitch. The red heads crested over the berm and they were running into the decoy.
Two were Rios and one was a Merriam’s and Dirt desperately whispered, “The middle one, the middle one!” At about 20-yards, there was enough separation between the trio for a clear shot and I hit it out of the park. Woohoo!
The other two turkey never skipped a beat they were looking to beat up on the tom that dared to encroach on their territory. They finally eased off and I was able to check out my bird. I was thrilled to be able to take in the beauty of that Merriam’s Tom. The intricacies of the feathers, the iridescence of its coloring. Being able to convert my swing and a miss into a single felt good!
For me, this hasn’t been a very successful turkey season. With spending the least amount of time ever spent spring turkey hunting in the woods, my lack of success was to be expected. As I scroll through social media and see all the successful harvests at each of the outfitters that we are traveling more than 15 hours to hunt with, I have high hopes that my luck will change at the two Ladies in Camo turkey hunts we are about to spend the next seven days hunting. Six ladies from four different states are converging upon Misty Morning Outfitters in Kansas to hunt Rio Grand turkey, and four are traveling on to The Roost in Nebraska to hunt Merriam’s turkey.
Rebecca, from Florida, is traveling with us…asleep in the back seat of Cletus as I type this entry. Kim and Marla are traveling together from Illinois. Sherry and Connie are traveling together from Michigan. None of us “NEW” to turkey hunting, however, this is Connie’s first guided outfitter hunt; this will be Rebecca’s 2nd and 3rd bird and species as she recently harvested her first turkey, an Eastern in Alabama; and Kim and Marla were just in the woods turkey hunting this past weekend.
I have been fortunate enough to have hunted some place at a point in time with each of these women, except Connie. I am looking forward to gaining a new hunting friend. It has been nearly eight years since I have hunted with Sherry, who attended my very first hunt I organized. It has been nearly four years since I have hunted with Marla and just last September that I hunted with Rebecca and Kim. I feel blessed to be able to call these ladies friends.
My plan is to share as much of this hunt with all of my blog followers and subscribers, as well as my social media friends and followers. I will post some contributed blog entries and photos from the ladies attending this hunt if they wish to contribute. Look for stories of our travels, our good times at the lodge, photos and tales from the hunt, and of course, all the shenanigans. Check out the Ladies in Camo and Life in Camo Facebook page, search the hashtags #LICMMO16 and #LICTheRoost16 in social media to keep up with posts from the Ladies in Camo Kansas and Nebraska turkey hunts.
As we are rolling through north central Oklahoma, crossing over into Kansas, with just two more hours of travel, my mind is already on the turkey hunt…wishing these ladies the best of luck in the coming days.
I hope we ALL have the opportunity to “dance with a fist full of feathers!”
I write this with mixed emotions bringing the sad news that my beloved Clyde has gone to Dodge Heaven and will be no more. It was a sudden death and a real shock to Mister and I both. So many fond memories…..
We enjoyed so many wonderful places and many miles shared with good friends. Like our very first trip that took me to Minnesota with Pat Hendrixson and Tammie Knopp to hunt black bear, a Florida gator hunt with Shanon and Amber Markley, an Osceola turkey hunt and a trip to hunt gators with Pat Hendrixson, a fun trip to Savanah, Georgia with Sonya Hancock, a hog hunt at Ken “Bubba” Ledbetter’s in Liberty Mississippi with Kasey Riddle and Billinda Neyman, hauling several LIC staff around in Nashville at the NWTF Convention, a deep-sea fishing trip turned vacay to Biloxi, Mississippi and New Orleans with Lisa Coppenbarger and Sonya Hancock, an eastern turkey hunt with Kurt and Mackenzie Walters, an Osceola hunt turned mini vacay in Coral Gables, Florida with Greg and Billinda Neyman, and more recently, a hog hunt with Nito Mortero and Becca Estes.
Clyde was there to pick up Diane Hassinger from the Montgomery Municipal Airport on her first trip to Alabama the very first time we met. Clyde made us proud when Jeanne Peebles and myself giggled in the cab of that big old truck as we climbed up a soppy Alabama red clay hillside in 4-wheel drive at a dog deer hunt as other vehicles were stuck in the muck.
I attempted my very first oil change on Clyde and although I had just as much oil on me as I feel was in the oil reservoir…I now know I can change the oil and filters in a truck. Many ideas were thought up, many words were typed, many hours of audiobooks heard and many problems brainstormed in that big old comfortable cab.
Mister and I shared so many miles of GREAT ADVENTURES that took us to states like Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Illinois, Arkansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma and anything in between more. Not to mention the MANY miles within the boundaries of the State of Alabama; there are not too many main roads that were left untraveled. The countless miles of highway looking at the world through a windshield.
We both felt as if we had V.I.P. front row seating to many sunrises and sunsets, mountains and valley plains, passed many beautiful agriculture fields and crossed over many winding creeks and rivers. We shared fast food sack dinners, truck stop grub and even holiday meals on the center console and several lunches eaten off the tailgate.
We remember the day fondly when we brought Clyde home as I blogged about out last day with The Lil Silver Pony. Just as we remember all too well as we watched Clyde’s odometer roll over 100,000 miles by Parkman Cattle Company in Montgomery, Alabama and when it rolled over 200,000 miles crossing over the Mississippi River in Saint Louis, Missouri, as we cheered Clyde on with a Whoo Hooo…both, Mister and I, simultaneously patting the dashboard!
Trustworthy…never leaving us on the side of the road, Clyde fought to roll the last 100 yards into the dealership’s service bay with a horrible rattle, growl and a clatter as Mister turned the key off. We knew it was not good but we never dreamed it would be the “Death of Clyde.”
Four years, four months, 240,560 miles and countless engine hours….farewell our steel steed…our trusty old friend and travel partner...it has been a good ride on a GRAND JOURNEY.
Today we go to the Dodge dealership to order a replacement and should the new truck live up to “rolling in the tires” of Clyde, it will be another great entry in the “Chapter of Dodges” that we have owned and loved in this lifetime. Now, to find the right name…
GAMO Outdoor USA partnered with Buckmasters in hosting the first annual Squirrel Master Classic in Montgomery, Alabama, on February 19-20, 2014, which paired together top hunting celebrities with Gamo executives or distributors, media, and 4-H youth participants. The hunting event, which was comprised of six by invitation only teams, was held at the Southern Sportsman Hunting Lodge that sits on 6,000 acres nestled in Lowndes and Dallas County.
Each team included two hunting industry celebrities, a GAMO executive or distributor, a media/press personnel, a 4-H youth hunter, a guide, a cameraman, and a dog handler. The teams included Team Buckmasters led by Jackie Bushman, Team Bone Collector let by Michael Waddell and Nick Mundt, Team Bone Collector II led by Travis “T-Bone” Turner and Edmond Waddell, Team High Road led by Keith Warren, Team Addicted to the Outdoors led by John and Gina Brunson, and Team MRA Hunting led by Shawn Michaels and Keith Mark. I was placed on Team Bone Collector II and knew immediately, with T-Bone on my team, we were in for some fun hunting. Jim Mason of Southern Sportsman Hunting Lodge was our guide for the hunt; we had an advantage of a guide who knew the land well.
Every hunter on each team was issued a GAMO’s Whisper Fusion Pro air rifle in .177 caliber with one hunter on each team issued the same model in .22 caliber. The single shot, break-barrel GAMO Whisper Fusion Pro air rifle has an amazingly quiet shot at 1400 fps (PBA Platinum) with a 3.74-pound Smooth Action Trigger (SAT) with a manual safety. Mounted on the air rifle was a 3-9x40mm GAMO scope. My first concern was being able to cock the air rifle with the rated 41 pound cocking effort. That concern quickly vanished after I adapted my own style of break-barrel cocking. The air rifle measures 43” with 18” of barrel and weighes in at 8 pounds making it very manageable during the hunt and perfect for small game and varmint hunting.
Fedor Palacios and Jeff Roll from GAMO Outdoors USA were an amazing wealth of information about the GAMO products; answering the many questions I had about the air rifle, the GAMO scope, and the various type of ammo that was available for us to shoot while at the event. Jeff Roll shared new generalized products and products ideal for youth and women, and he provided extremely helpful tips and suggestions for using the GAMO Whisper Fusion Pro to improve my marksmanship.
Immediately after the GAMO air rifles were issued along with a SWAG bag and ammo, many of us made our way to the practice range to sight in our rifles. After all, this was a competition and a hunter is only as accurate as their precisely tuned weapon. I had the opportunity to share the range with several of the 4-H youth hunters and was extremely impressed with their shooting skills and range etiquette. After a few shots, it was apparent I would need to move the sight on my rifle a little to zero it in. I found the GAMO scope easy to adjust, and in no time I was able to quickly adapt to the break-barrel loading. I shot the air rifle about a dozen times mostly for the experience of shooting it. With this model’s patented double integrated noise dampening technology, the air rifle was so quiet that hearing protection was not necessary on the practice range or the hunt. This also gave the hunter an advantage because the shot was nearly undetectable to the game being pursued. I got dialed in quickly which freed me up to spend the rest of the evening getting to know my teammates.
The entire group enjoyed a wonderful southern-style meal of fried chicken, creamed potatoes and gravy, seasoned baby limas, cornbread and southern sweet tea. Shortly after supper, each individual team grouped together and started strategizing for the hunt. As would be expected, it didn’t take long for the “smack-talk” to roll across the room with many laughs and good fellowship shared before it was time to call it a night in anticipation of the hunt the next morning.
The teams woke to a country-style breakfast with sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, grits, biscuits, orange juice, and coffee. The rules were covered with the group and we all gathered our gear and climbed into vehicles to go to our designated hunting areas. We had a 3-hour time limit on the morning hunt where each squirrel would count as a point and a fox squirrel would count as two points, with a limit of only one harvest on fox squirrel per team. In the case of a tie, the most weight determined the lead.
Butch Morton brought two of his champion squirrel dogs, Mo and Mexico, to tree squirrels for us. Both dogs were equipped with Garmin collars for safety. Butch swapped out the two dogs on each stop at a new location and both dogs did a fantastic job on both of our hunts. The morning started off slow and finally about 30 minutes into the hunt, Mo started barking at the base of a tree–the hunt was on!
Ken Piper of Buckmasters put the first squirrel in the bag by making a perfect shot on a squirrel sending it to the ground for retrieval. I was fortunate to put the next two squirrels in the bag and then Travis “T-Bone” Turner put a squirrel in the bag followed by Edmund Waddell. Right before time was called, Mo treed a fox squirrel. Our team ended up with a morning count of 5 squirrels and a fox squirrel for a total of 7 points.
Team Bone Collector II’s 7 points was not enough to put us in the lead, but we did break a tie for 3rd place by weight. At the noon weigh-in the standings were Team Bone Collector in the lead with 14 points, Team Buckmasters with 9 points, Team Bone Collector II with 7 points (8.125 lbs), Team MRA with 7 points (8 lbs), Team Addicted to the Outdoors with 5, and Team High Road with 1. Team Bone Collector had an impressive lead…but could they keep it? Smack-talk ensued and carried on through lunch where we dined on BBQ pulled pork, baked beans, potato salad, and coleslaw. The lunch break flew by and we all found ourselves riding back out to the woods.
The three-hour afternoon hunt started off with Kelley Hartley of Buckmasters bagging the first squirrel of the afternoon. The dogs worked hard, treed some squirrels for us, and a few got away by getting into holes in the tree. One wily squirrel hit the ground, and I am pretty sure it’s probably still running cross country. We bagged a total of 4 squirrels on the afternoon hunt.
When we returned to the lodge for weigh-in, it was obvious that our afternoon harvest was not going to keep us in 3rd place; however, we held onto a good solid 4th place. Team Buckmasters weighed in an amazing 28 squirrels plus one fox squirrel to take the win with 39 points. Team Bone Collector had a great afternoon hunt weighing in 12 squirrels to take 2nd place, followed by Team MRA with 12 points, Team Bone Collector II with 11 points, Team Addicted to the Outdoors with 8 points, and Team High Road with 2 points.
Weigh-in was followed by dinner of bacon wrapped pork loin, baked potato, green beans, black-eyed peas, salad, dinner rolls, vanilla cake, and sweet tea. After dinner there was an awards presentation and closing ceremony. Lou Riley from Gamo shared news about several new air rifle models that GAMO is preparing to release, and Jackie Bushman awarded the winning team with the coveted wooden squirrel trophy. The winning team of the 1st Annual Buckmasters-GAMO Squirrel Master Classic is Team Buckmasters.
AND THE WINNER IS…Team Buckmasters. Jackie Bushman (Buckmasters), Callie Littlefield (4-H), Lou Riley (GAMO), Ronnie O’Neal (Dog Handler), Jim Shepard (Media), Adam Heggenstalker (NRA), and Jacob Landry (Swamp People) with the coveted wooden squirrel trophy. Photo: Life in Camo
I feel extremely fortunate I was invited to participate in this hunt. Not only was I able to experience my first squirrel hunt, I was able to field test the GAMO Whisper Fusion Pro air rifle while hunting with some of the industries top hunters and making new friends all the while. Watching the squirrel dogs work is something I enjoyed as much as shooting the GAMO air rifle. I have a feeling that there will be a bounty on some squirrels and small game in my backyard now – I am thankful that I live out in the country!
Watch for the GAMO Outdoor USA-Buckmasters Squirrel Master Classic coming to you on television this spring. If you are looking for a great small game air rifle or an air rifle you can use for plinking on the range or perfecting your shot, GAMO Outdoor USA has a model to meet your need.
Gamo Outdoor USA is a leading consumer product company that designs, manufactures, and markets a diverse portfolio of outdoor sporting goods products under such world-class brands as GAMO, BSA Optics, Laser Genetics, Aftermath, and Stunt Studios, and it is the exclusive distributor of BSA Guns. For more information visit http://www.gamooutdoorusa.com, Facebook.com/GamoeOutdoorUSA, Twitter.com/GamoOutdoor, and YouTube.com/GamoOutdoor.
GAMO Outdoor USA logo is the sole property of its rightful owner and used within this writing solely for the promotion of products herein as requested by the product’s manufacturer.
Endorsement Disclosure: Per guidelines of the Federal Trade Commission, the products reviewed in these product reviews is an endorsement and the writer may have been compensated by “in-kind” payment to review the product.
Michele Branning was the first person to sign up for this hunt and was someone I felt I had a connection with before the hog hunt–however, that connection was that she lives in my childhood hometown, Panama City, Florida. Matter of fact, just around the corner from where I grew up. I was introduced to Michele through Facebook when a childhood friend, Sharon Pearman Moses from Panama City linked us together. I had spoken with Michele often through Facebook correspondence, but I had never met her in person.
This was Michele’s first hunt out-of-state and her first experience of hunting at night–I assured her that she was in for a treat. Spending time with Michele was like spending time with an old friend; we were familiar with the same area we called home and even many of the same friends. I kind of laughed when I thought “I finally found someone who is very similar to me.” By this I mean–the last to go to bed and usually the first one up. Michele was actually up for a straight 36 hours on this hunt. Her excitement kept her up, let see what she experienced in the blind.
What to write about?
It was my first time hunting hogs at night, hunting out of my state, and my first guided hunt.
I thought about how nervous I was when I first got to the lodge, but that only lasted for a few minutes.
I reminisced about my first thoughts when I walked up to the ground blind and saw there was no door or floor and here it was getting dark.
I looked for snakes inside the blind (thanks to Richard for that tip) and I was thinking what if one decides to come in while I am sitting here.
Hmmm, what have I got myself into? Thankfully that did not happen and I only worried for a couple of minutes about it.
I decided to write about a few of my experiences while sitting in the stand.
On Saturday morning, we were on our way to the stand before daylight. When I reached my stand, I unpacked everything, relaxed and listened for the hogs. I had not heard anything by the time it finally was getting where I could see the area around me just a bit. Sitting there enjoying the most peaceful time of day for me, I watched the shadows closely. I thought I saw one of the shadows move, but I was not sure.
I waited just a second and took another look–Oh yeah! That is a hog! Here we go. I shouldered my gun and turned on the scope. I still could not see clear enough for a shot so I turned on the flashlight. The hog turned at the same time, not good–it is now walking straight toward me. Thinking to myself, this is not good. But then I thought to myself, how many deer have you shot successfully this way? I was confident that I could drop it right there. But I did not want to mess this up and miss it. I told myself just to wait and it will turn. The hog took a few more steps toward me and started to turn. Okay, here we go and I was ready.
Oh no!! The hog turned!! It turned right into the tall grass. I could only see the very top of its back. So here I was, waiting again, hoping that it would turn and come out of that grass. It seemed like forever but it finally turned, as soon as it stepped out where I thought I had a perfect shot–I took the shot. It did a 360 degree turn and went back the other way. I thought to myself, okay this is not good. I had a bad feeling that I did not hit it, but then a piglet came running in and ran back and forth several times.
I ended up sending a text to my guide, Richard, and told him I was not sure if I had made contact with my shot but I wanted to look for blood. He told me he was on his way. Thankfully he helped me as we looked and looked, but no sign that I made a hit. I sure did hate that I missed the first hog that I have ever shot at, but I was so thankful that I did not wound it.
Saturday night, I went back out to the same stand. Right before dark I saw movement outside the doorway of the stand just inside of the treeline. I picked up my rifle hoping that it was a hog. It turned out to be a young deer and it was about 20 feet from the stand. There was a large doe behind it and I was busted. They stomped and blew at me for about 20 minutes. They never came out of the woods and finally they took off.
When I was too tired to sit any longer, I sent a text out that I was ready to be picked up. That was at 9:07 pm, I got a text back 10 minutes later that Richard was on his way. This is the about the time I heard coyotes; a very large pack of them too. Of course I had heard them in the past while walking out of my stands but not this close; they were within a 50yd radius of me; remember no door on my blind.
I thought to myself, I do not like this at all and I did the only thing I could think of; I pointed the rifle toward the door with the light on. Yes, I was scared. Then I was wondering if I was getting picked up by truck because I would have to walk out to the vehicle. There is NO WAY that I am walking out by myself like I did on Friday night. Why am I not seeing headlights yet? Why did I not bring my pistol on this trip? Yes, all of this was running through my head at the same time.
At 9:38 pm I sent a text asking my guide if he was driving in and thankfully a text was sent right back stating he was on the HuntVe on the way in now. Okay, this is good news; he will be driving in. By the time I saw headlights coming toward my stand, I was so happy and ready to get out of that shooting house and out of those woods.
I really enjoyed myself on this hunt and I am looking forward to doing it again. I met some wonderful people, made new friendships, and learned some new things.
Day two at Rack Nine Outdoors really had no start at all since several never went to bed in the wee hours of the morning or at daybreak, some rose early, some were just coming in from the stand and others slept in. The ladies that went out early were back at lodge by 9:00 a.m. There were several ladies that went out and sat in the stand until after lunch. Hogs were seen but no shots made.
Dawn Gribb, Michele Branning, Nancy Carpenter and I rode Hank the HuntVe over to the front pond to watch Dawn fish. I don’t fish, so I took some photos and stood around and talked with everyone.
It was a beautiful blue bird sky day and even though it was pretty hot and sunny–we were still comfortable. Dawn caught a nice Bass that twisted off her barbless hook but later redeemed herself by landing a smaller Bass. We dropped Nancy off at the lodge so she could get her some sleep. The three of us rode Hank around the property, staying on the road system. We started out looking for the back ponds–but we were lost and enjoying the scenery. We shared stories, talked about products, and just enjoyed some sunshine and friendship. We met up with Terry and Chris, who had checked stands and scouting–but mostly riding the ATV in the mud.
When we returned to the lodge it was time for lunch; grilled hamburgers and potato chips. While we ate, Shannon was preparing a cobbler with some fresh blueberries that she brought and Terry was preparing stuff for supper that night. We would be eating an early supper since we all had plans to return to the field early this evening and sit until several hours into the night.
Jeanne, Krissy and a couple other women that had braved the heat were still coming in well after lunch. A few had seen piglets or smaller hogs but no shots were taken. Jeanne was going to have to leave early so Richard and I spent some time chatting with her at the table as she ate lunch. I hated to see her leave early from the hunt but I definitely understood that it was important that she leave.
We sat down for an early supper of baked chicken breast, HOME-MADE mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, rolls and sweet tea that made you want to purr when you drank it. The “good stuff” made in a boiler on the stove…oh yeah…we felt pretty spoiled.
Shortly after supper, every one was gearing up to go into the field for some hog hunting. We loaded up in trucks, on ATVs and Hank and driving in different directions departing to carry hunters to their stands. The humidity was horrible and I broke a sweat just getting to and in my stand. Whew..I could already hear the mosquitoes calling in their friends and family. I had my ThermoCell lit as soon as my feet hit the platform of my ladder stand. Shortly after I was in my stand I heard the first shot. I pumped my fist in the air…and thought WOOO HOOO!!
After about 45 minutes I text Richard to find out who shot and if a hog was down. The reply was that a hog was down. Krissy Herman from Pennsylvania shot a sow going into the same stand that I had almost walked on a sow the night before; I just knew someone was going to have an opportunity to shoot one there if they went in early than I did on Friday night. I was ecstatic for her!! Richard said she came in with her hog harvest but went right back out to her stand after photos.
Dawn Gribb took a shot at a hog and Amber Markley took a shot at a trophy boar sometime before I came in from my stand, I remember hearing the shots and getting excited. I just couldn’t stand it any longer–I was hearing all these shots and I thought I was missing a party at the lodge so about 9 p.m., I text Richard to come get me on Hank. When I got back to the lodge there were still several ladies out. Michele Branning text and asked Richard to come pick her up. She was hunting out of a ground blind and had coyotes all around her howling. What an experience in the pitch black of night and on the ground, none the less.
I rode with Richard to pick them her up, but as we were going to the stand we got a flash of the spotlight from Shannon and Amber’s stand so we text them to see if they wanted to come in as well. They were ready. On our way in we drove around the huge corn field staying on the look out for hogs. There were signs every where but we were not fortunate enough to see any hogs.
Once back at the lodge we all visited a while before turning in for a good night’s sleep. Plans were made to go out between 3:30-4:00 a.m. A few ladies were still in their stands when I retired and my roommate Chris was going to try to stay on stand all night long. Poor Krissy stayed in her stand an extra hour longer than she had wished after the two guides and myself got her number mixed up with Nancy Carpenter’s number…who probably was picked up earlier than she had wished. Future note to self: ALWAYS put names with the telephone numbers to keep this from happening.
Sometime before my alarm went off, Chris came in. She had not seen any hogs; other wildlife but no hogs. I quickly fell back asleep and it couldn’t have been an hour before my alarm went off. It was time to wake folks up and have them get ready to go out to their stands. Slowly but surely there was movement in the lodge and by 4:00 a.m. hunters were filing out the door headed for vehicles to take them to their stands.
Sunday mornings hunt was a very slow hunt. I am not sure if anyone actually seen hogs–I think they heard them. I know Michele Branning and Michelle Harmes were in good spots for morning and day hunting because they had hog wallows close by. I rode with Richard to pick Michele up and we were able to scout around the area she hunted. Amazing at all the signs.
When we returned to the lodge, Terry had warmed up the pork loin, hamburgers and chicken breast and we had a feast on leftovers. Dawn called and Richard and I went to get her from her stand.
Shortly after lunch we took a few pictures, sorted through some Rack Nine Outdoors logo wear to take home as a souvenir (thank you Terry) and we started packing are gear and loading it in our vehicles.
Packing up and loading the vehicles is always the saddest part of the hunt for me. These hunts are never long enough–just about the time everyone gets comfortable with each other to the point they are cracking jokes, coining pet names and making plans for future hunts…it is time to pack up an depart. I never feel like I have enough time to spend individually with each person. I absolutely love the camaraderie at these events and I am so thankful to the Good Lord that He has blessed me not only with the means and health to be able to experience these hunts but also that He has blessed me immensely with good friends that are good people. I learn new things and I am enriched every time I am together with a new group.
A big heartfelt thank you to Terry Garrett for allowing me the opportunity to put this hunt together and to Greg Lovvorn for taking care of us ladies, getting us to our stands, catering to us when we needed something. Thank you to Richard for, yet again, being my everything at this hunt from my bell boy, mule, driver, guide, photographer…you name it and for guiding the ladies. My gratitude and a shout out to all the companies that sent promo items, gift certificates and information for the ladies that attended–it is your companies that cater to these lady hunters and I feel it is important that they know you exist and they spread the word.
And thank you to all the ladies who attended this hunt. I am always humbled that the ladies that attend my hunts have placed their trust in me for the experience and quality of time they will spend away from home. I know that it is not only a financial investment for them, it is also time that they spend away from their families and other responsibilities in life. I would hope that each one leave with good memories and a special enrichment from time spent in the great outdoors with good friends. For these bonds are what enrich our souls and make us appreciate this journey we call life.
Dawn Gribb with SheeWee USA, LLC attended the Rack Nine Outdoors hog hunt over the weekend and although I have field-tested and published a product review on her company’s product, the SheWee, I have never had the opportunity to speak to her. Dawn was our only hunter that came with a fishing pole to wet a hook. Dawn was also thoughtful and brought each one of the ladies a SheWee. Thank you so much Dawn for sharing your company’s outstanding product with this group of women.
Dawn has only been hunting about 3-3.5 years and everything is still new and exciting to her as she has tackled new adventures. She is also going through what many of us ladies experience when we started hunting; confidence tampering thoughts that make you measure your bravery. Dawn did very well and you would have never know she was a new hunter. Here is her story about this new experience and conquering the fear that came with the experience.
Conquering my fears
I heard about the trip to Alabama about two weeks before our departure. Wow! An opportunity to get away and go hunting for wild boar with my girlfriends. I am a novice hunter and I am a perpetual planner and like to think every situation through. I imagine how I will react to different situations. But what I experienced on the Boar hunt with Rack Nine Outdoors would open my eyes and force me to address some of my fears.
The first night was ladder stands and lightning – I’ve never been much for heights and had only been in a (large) tree stand one time before our hunt. As I climbed up the ladder and reached the top, I realized quickly that I was “white knuckled”. You know where you are afraid to let go for fear of toppling to the ground, rifle, backpack and all. The tree was rather large and as I tried to throw the safety harness around the tree, I felt a fuzzy vine going up the backside of the tree. My stomach sunk, I tried again to throw the belt around the tree, and finally decided to just turn around and sit down. I strapped myself to the ladder, and tried to look to see if there were any leaves of three coming from the vine above or below me. Hmmmm, it was too hard to tell. So I sat there sweating, and worrying about poison, falling out of the tree and (now realizing the lightning storm was much closer), getting struck by lightning. I knew my girlfriends would write a nice obituary about how I died doing what I wanted to do, but what about the poison all over my face. All of a sudden I heard distant squealing and grunting and my thoughts turned to hog hunting.
The second night was different dilemmas: spiders, getting lost, and total darkness. I was now in a narrower ladder stand and was far away from everyone. They told me I would have to walk in quite far. That wasn’t a problem, I asked my guide to walk with me to the stand. I had my reasons, I was afraid, but I didn’t want to show it. As we walked I had noticed the spider webs but the excitement overcame my fear and I quickly proceeded to the stand. About an hour after I was in the stand, I heard a rustling in the bushes behind me. I turned to see a large boar approaching and my heart started pounding.
Holy crap is this pig going to come to a place where I could shoot it? Forgetting that I was up in a tree stand I tried to whip around to where I could get a shot. But this time (the tree was smaller) I was able to tether myself to the tree and apparently didn’t do it high enough. It seemed like forever till he walked into my view. I took the twisted, turned-around shot and he jumped and ran away. Damn, how could I have missed? I turned around and silently hoped that he would come back, maybe farther away. Then I started to wonder if I shot him and didn’t put him down.
I sat with myself for a while and pictured how he ran a few hundred feet and fell over. Then, my phone started to ring.
Was that you who shot? Came the texts.
Did you get one?
I don’t know, I replied.
Did you look for blood?
Oh, it never occurred to me to get down and look. Holy crap, it’s getting really dark and I have to get down from the “safety” of my tree? What kind of hunter am I? The guide offered to come with a four-wheeler but to me that isn’t hunting. If I shot, I need to get my butt down there and check it out. And so I did. Leaving the comforts of my ThermoCell on the tree stand, I climbed down and slowly walked back to where I thought I shot it. Thinking this was going to be easy and quick, I had not planned on running into large, spiders along the way. As I spun and tried to elude their webs, I got myself all turned around. “Okay, where is the tree that I am supposed to be looking for?” They all look-alike. I turned around to get my bearings and find the tree stand but I couldn’t see it. I started to gingerly walk around looking and realized that I was lost.
Panic started to kick in. I could no longer hear all the bugs making noises. The only sound was my heart pounding in my ears. Anxiety started to kick in and I realized how vulnerable I was. It was now very dark and I held the only light in the forest. Every critter was looking at me. What about the blood? Was there a wounded boar waiting to run me down? All things flashed through my head, until I realized that I needed to calm down, get my bearings, take my time (all the while watching for spiders) and find the ledge that the tree stand was near. After about 15 minutes I was able to find my way back, and the tree stand never looked so good. I had conquered another milestone.
Later, as I sat in the tree stand, the darkness came. There was so much cover where I was that it was pitch black. I couldn’t see my hand right in front of my face. I had never experienced anything like this; sitting alone in the middle of the woods in total darkness. With the heat and humidity the air was thick, and there was the constant high-pitched sound of the mosquitoes and bugs. I tried to focus on listening for footsteps but my mind wandered. I had never been cut-off in total darkness. This was a new experience. It must be like being in solitary confinement, but it was my choice and I was not going to be fearful anymore. I was conquering my fears.
I can’t wait to get back out there and try it again. With every hunt comes knowledge. And next time I will be better prepared.
Michelle Harmes sent me an email requesting information about the ladies hog hunt at Rack Nine Outdoors after it posted on Women’s Outdoor News. I don’t think I had the chance to reply before I got a second email that read “Sign me up. Where do I need to mail my deposit?”
Michelle was probably the most quiet in the entire bunch, yet the most observant. You could tell she was a little nervous, yet excited and pumped-up about being at the hunt, without her saying a word. Michelle had one of the most exciting hunts–shy of Jennifer’s triple–where she had a close encounter with a boar hog while hunting out of a GROUND blind. YEP…eye to eye with the beast with nothing but a sheet of material between them–sends chills down my spine.
Here is Michelle’s incredible story:
It was a short drive from my house to Rack Nine Outdoors, down past Lake Eufaula and then through farming country with rolling hills. It was very beautiful. When I got to the entrance, I turned in to the dirt drive I was struck by the sight of a house on a grass island in the middle of a sea of corn.
The inside of the lodge was beautiful, there were very impressive deer mounted on the walls and sheds by the fireplace. The living room had windows on three walls so you could look out to the corn fields and down to the forest. Even though I had never met the guides before, it felt like I was in the home of a friend. Slowly the other ladies arrived and we all introduced ourselves. Everyone was excited about going hunting that night. When Nancy Jo arrived she had goody bags filled with t-shirts, hats and koozies from some companies that cater to women hunters.
There were some thunderstorms brewing out in the distance but they were supposed to go around us. We all went outside to watch the lightning and the wind started whipping the corn into waves. It started to sprinkle and then pour down rain as we went inside for dinner. It was amazing pork chops, potatoes with green beans and corn. A great hot meal to prepare us for the night out in stands.
When the storm had past the ladies all switched from casual to camo with our guns ready and game faces on. We loaded up into separate trucks and drove off to the drop off points. My stand was up first, a little wooden ground blind set between the corn field and the woods. A perfect location since the field was being dug up by the hogs. On my walk out I saw three little piglets that just stared at me as I walked up. They were big enough to look like mini hogs but no bigger than 20 pounds. I knelt and pulled my magazine out and snapped it into the AK-47. They just kept watching me. I was hoping Mama Pig was going to be right in the corn field behind them. I charged the gun but the click made them turn and walk into the tall stalks. Methinks they have heard that noise before. I tried to find them but they were always a step ahead of me so I continued on to my blind.
It was enough for two people with two chairs inside, one for me and one for my gear. I set up my tripod with my spotlight on top and waited for night fall. I heard three gunshots and that made me happy and hopeful that there was lots of pigs to be had. Later I learned that my roommate Jennifer decimated three pigs before she even got to her stand! She has never hunted hogs before this trip, I was so happy for her, what a rush that must have been!
I didn’t see any more pigs that night and sent out the call to be picked up about fifteen minutes past 1 am. Greg, one of the guides came and he had Chris and Nancy Jo in the truck picking them up from their stands. We took the back road around the corn field and it was a great ride in the fresh mud, gotta love off roading!
We were all tired back at the lodge and chatted a bit and then went to bed so we could be up and out again before sunrise. We left the lodge again at 4am and that morning I heard pigs chomping in the woods but didn’t see anything. I was visited by a toad, a hawk and many crows. When the sun started getting hot I called to get picked up and Terry, the main guide, came on the atv and we rode back to the lodge. I haven’t been on an ATV in forever!
I got back and was just in time to have some 14 layer birthday cake for Amber’s birthday. That’s right, I said 14 layers. I crashed into bed for a much-needed nap and woke up for lunch of delicious burgers and chips. We all decided we wanted to get out early so we could set up long before sunset. We visited and then ate an early dinner.
I was switched to a different ground blind after not seeing anything in the last blind. When the truck dropped me off I could just see a glimpse of the stand. It was sitting in a dried up swamp, the grass was so thick and green it looked like the swamp was full of green water. My blind was next to a big tree and about 20 yards from a very popular wallow.
I settled in, excited that there was so much sign. After half an hour a doe walked in at the far side of the swamp, she was a very large red doe but so far away I could only tell she was looking my way when I could see the white of her ears. Two more does joined her and they wandered around eating.
At almost exactly 8pm one of the shadows in the woods came to life. He had made no noise walking out of the forest, out of the corner of my eye I saw movement and looked just in time to see him shove an offending branch out of his way. His massive head was held high in the air, he knew he was king of the forest. He started a slow jog in front of me, almost prancing in the soft ground. His very round body floated over his stubby legs as he got further out into the open .
The blind I was in had mesh over the windows that I was watching him from, I had to wait until he got to an open window. I reached for the gun in my lap, ready and nearly drooling that this moment was more perfect than I could have imagined. He was going to prance in front of me to the wallow and I was going to have a huge hog!
My heart sank and time crawled in slow motion as just before the open window the boar turned 90 degrees and jogged straight at me in my flimsy fabric ground blind. My chair is so low that he disappeared behind the fabric wall when he came within 10 feet of me. I must have sat up when I couldn’t see him anymore because he stopped in his tracks, dropped his head and jumped to the side, snorting.
He was going to charge! Is what my brain told me. But I just startled the beast. He ran back towards the woods but he was still looking my way. He was perfectly quartered away from me but hidden behind a stretch of fabric next to the window. I leaned forward trembling and I aimed for his head.
I knew I missed, I knew I should have aimed for the body. I knew I failed as he turned and ran. Had I not been in a ground blind I would have shot every bullet I had as he ran away. I couldn’t stop shaking as panic and paranoia set in. Eventually I calmed down but didn’t see anything else that night, except the baby alligator that lived in the wallow. He wasn’t more than a foot long. It was a great learning experience and something I will never forget. I am pretty disappointed that I failed so hard but I guess that this is why they call hunting the relentless pursuit.
Another day Prancer, another day.
It was a slow morning waking up, every one planned on leaving at 3:30am but not a creature stirred till 4am. I was back out at my swamp blind just as dusk was breaking. I stayed out later in the morning thinking that the heat would make them come out to the wallow but the only thing that I saw was an increasing number of bees and wasps inspecting my blind so I called to be picked up. Terry came by with Chris on the ATV and I hopped on the back and all three of us rode up to the lodge. It was a bumpy ride and a little scary because I thought my back would act up but once I relaxed it never did.
Everyone was getting ready to go and we had a quick lunch of pork chops and bread. Then we took some group pictures and said our good byes. It was an amazing trip and I had so much fun and made some great friends that I can’t wait to hunt with this fall! I cannot wait to go again next year and get that Prancer!